Be what you wanna be. Do what you wanna do. Read what you wanna read. Yeah!

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You know what I am tired of? The need for articles coming out in defense of Women’s Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Genre Fiction in general. Every day my newsfeed has multiple articles on this phenomenon, and sadly, they are still needed. For some reason people just cannot seem to get the point that we do not live in an English classroom where book titles are dictated by necessity so that knowledge and understanding can be tested in a standardized way that the government requires. In real life people can read and enjoy whatever they want… AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL THEM THAT THEY CANNOT!

Sorry guys, I know I went all caps there. It got scary, I was even a bit scared of my own emotions but this book shaming is really starting to get my goat. And if there is one thing regular followers of this blog know, it’s that I don’t like anyone looking at or touching my goat, let alone taking it. Don’t make me go all Liam Neeson on your arse over my goat. I have a terrible Irish accent and nobody will benefit from this scenario. Now let’s get back to the heavy stuff. You’ve had your levity break!

This morning a picture captioned “A call for respectful discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey – It is okay to and welcome to criticize a book. It is not okay to be a terrible person” was on my newsfeed. Yesterday an insightful article by Marian Keyes entitled, “Please can we stop saying ‘chick-lit'” caught my attention. For the former here’s what I have to say, love it or hate it, you have no right to dictate to someone what they enjoy reading. I love reading James Joyce. People often tell me I am a shameless wanker and that Joyce is likewise a wanker and hence we should just die in wankerhood together. It isn’t going to stop me loving James Joyce. His writing just really sits well with me. As does Julian Barnes. It doesn’t matter what you say, I will continue to love them, and read them and reread them. And although I quite happily debate the merits of Barnes and Joyce with people and am fine with people not loving them, when people resort to name calling and put downs it’s a bit much. Those people are poo poo heads, yes I get the irony. Same thing with Fifty Shades, lovers, if it vibes with them, if they enjoy it, if it gives them a moment’s escape from their lives, go for it. Love it, read it. Get inspired, go read more books, yeah! Go ahead, don’t like Fifty Shades, criticize it, but when you start being nasty to people who like it, well you’ve lost the argument, you’ve lost respect, you’ve lost yourself.

As for Marian Keyes plea – please stop saying Chick Lit, I both agree wholeheartedly yet disagree at the same time. Does Marian Keyes, hate chick lit? No, of course not. Is she saying it sucks? No, of course not. Is she pointing out that the term is used as a put down? Yes. Is it a put down? Yes and no. The term Chick Lit is often used by men and women alike, to put down works that focus on women. Novels in this genre tend to have successful female leads, with professional ambitions and a quirky group of friends, add to this a man often comes along and catches the lead characters eye. Then things of course get complicated, job goes to shit, fall out with friends, love interest goes all skewwhiff, then the strong female leads, pulls herself together, gets her groove back, gets her job back, gets her friends back and then the cherry on the cake, last of all, gets her man. Sounds a lot like real life, professional woman + career goals + crazy friends + a bit of romance. Hardly something that should be put down. I mean people rave about the Bronte sisters. They write about the same stuff. “Oh it is just silly fluff, about love,” you hear people say. Yeah, because love is just so stupid. Having meaningful connections is just ridiculous and would never happen in great literature. Dickens, Shakespeare, Virgil, none of these dudes would ever write about silly love stories. To be honest, typically in Chick Lit the love interest is actually the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, frosting is important, I like me a big chunk of butter cream. If I have the choice between frosted or unfrosted… well let’s just call me Elsa. But the female lead tends to have to sort out her career and friends first. That is the priority, it’s not that the love interest doesn’t get a lot of the word count dedicated to them, but the priority, the first things first, goes to career and bat shit crazy friends. Where would we be without out friends? How could we pay rent without our job? It’s a bit realistic isn’t it? Sure it gets mashed up with wit and humour but there’s a lot of deep stuff in Chick Lit, but there is a lot of truth and tragedy included. So why put it down? The answer is quite simply, because we live in a society that trivializes women and their experiences, and for women to get ahead they almost have to turn on their own kind. The bagging of the term Chick Lit is simply a manifestation of that. So as far as I can see you can call it whatever you like, Commercial Women’s Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Clit Lit, Vagraphy (okay I made that one up, I just wanted to use vag somewhere for my own amusement), the same issue will arise. People will put it down. People, what a bunch of bastards. Hopefully society progresses, that’s what needs to happen, and we are getting there, but until then, no matter how many terms we throw at stories for and about women, they will get trivialized. They’ll sell, because us bitches be smart and good with the books and the learning and stuff, but it’ll be marginalized.

Whoa. Robin, what just happened? Did you just go all overt feminist on our arses. Yeah, I kind of did. Commercial Women Writers tend to do that. Sorry. We give you plenty of shits and giggles, but we give you a message too. Let’s just take a deep breath and hug it out.

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2 responses »

  1. Nice one. Last year at opening night of the Newcastle Writers Festival Wendy Harmer talked about Chick Lit and the derision it garnered, and suggested that corresponding ‘Man Books’ should therefore be dubbed Dick Lit. She made some good points 🙂

    • I do so love Wendy Harmer. Despite having lived in Newcastle for 25yrs, not there anymore, I never once made it to the writers festival there. I do feel a bit guilty about that.

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